Town garage bids around $2 million

SOUTHWEST HARBOR–Replacing the town’s public works garage on Seal Cove Road could cost as much as $2 million, nearly eight times the originally proposed price. 

It has been three years since discussions to replace the aging building began. In May 2017, then Town Manager Don Lagrange proposed replacing the building with him acting as general contractor to save on cost.  

After voters approved $60,000 for the project at that year’s annual Town Meeting, $240,000 was set aside for the construction project. At that time, Lagrange said he thought the building could be constructed for no more than $250,000. 

About a year later, insurance on the building through the Maine Municipal Association lapsed because of deterioration.  

“It’s insured for liability and contents,” said Town Manager Justin VanDongen in a conversation with the Islander. “If the building fell down, they wouldn’t pay us for the building.” 

At this time, there is about $390,000 set aside for the project that was put out for bid on the open market earlier this year.  

Four bids were received for the garage construction project that includes a 6,800 square foot steel-framed building on a concrete pad with radiant floor heating and an erosion control sediment pond to prevent sand from the site washing into the Marshal Brook watershed.  

The lowest bid, submitted by Coastal Maine General Contracting, came in at $1,854,153 and the highest bid, submitted by Bowman Constructors, came in at $2,029,826. After reviewing the bids at their meeting this week, selectmen asked for site visits in order to be able to contextualize the listed items. 

According to VanDongen, the bids are good for 90 days. He asked selectmen if they could decide whether or not to move forward with the project at their next meeting scheduled for May 12.  

“I think if we don’t, we’re going backwards,” said Selectman Kristin Hutchins. “This building has traveled a long way from its original design.” 

There are two bus bays proposed for the new building, along with a double bay in which trucks and equipment can be parked, as well as a maintenance bay for working on equipment. Plans for the completed garage include mounting solar panels on the roof.  

Selectman Ryan Donahue expressed concern about the site of the current public works garage on Seal Cove Road. Bids for the project provided details about some aspects of construction, but did not list every specific item regarding the site versus the building.  

According to VanDongen, the cost of the structure alone is just under $150,000. Although it was not clear, Donahue questioned if the majority of the bid cost was for work that needed to be done on the grounds, not the building.  

“We have a really expensive site to work on,” he said. “Here we are asking taxpayers to come up with $2 million to build on a site that may not be worth it… I recommend we review the documents and come back to this.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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